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Jonathan Richardson, Snr. (London 1665-1745 Bloomsbury)
Jonathan Richardson, Snr. (London 1665-1745 Bloomsbury)

Portrait of a young man, identified as Jonathan Richardson, Jnr., half-length in a blue jacket

Details
Jonathan Richardson, Snr. (London 1665-1745 Bloomsbury)
Portrait of a young man, identified as Jonathan Richardson, Jnr., half-length in a blue jacket
oil on canvas
29½ x 24¼ in. (75 x 62.2 cm.)

Lot Essay

Jonathan Richardson rose from a humble family of weavers to become one of the most sought-after and influential portrait painters in England during the first half of the eighteenth century. He was responsible not only for executing a large number of portraits, but also for three treatises on painting. The influence of these works was significant, especially on the young Sir Joshua Reynolds, who claimed that Richardson's writing inspired him to become an artist.

Richardson trained under the portrait painter John Riley, later marrying Riley's niece. His career as a portrait painter prospered and, by 1731, he was described by the contemporary art historian George Vertue as one of the three foremost masters of the day. He executed accomplished and sensitive portraits, particularly of children, such as the Double portrait of Edward Rolt and his sister Constantia, sold, Christie's, London, 14 November 1997, lot 21 (£120,000=$202,800). Another feature of his work that sets him apart from that of his two main foreign-born rivals, Sir Godfrey Kneller and Michael Dahl, is the richness of his coloring, something that is apparent in the present work.

By the 1740s, Richardson was able to retire as a rich man, wealthy enough to provide the life of a gentleman for his son, also called Jonathan (1694-1771). Jonathan Richardson, Jnr., shared many of his father's literary and artistic interests and although Horace Walpole states that he 'painted a little', he largely devoted himself to connoisseurship.

The first two treatises written by Richardson, Snr., respectively An Essay on the Theory of Painting of 1715 and An Essay on the Whole Art of Criticism as it Relates to Painting and an Argument on Behalf of the Science of the Connoisseur of 1719, focus on the practicalities of painting. The third treatise, An Account of Some of the Statues, Bas-reliefs, Drawings and Pictures in Italy of 1722, was co-written by his son, and focuses on collecting and the Grand Tour. Jonathan Richardson, Jnr., had just returned from a Grand Tour of Europe and purchased a number of paintings and drawings for his father's collection.

Jonathan Richardson, Snr. had by his death assembled one of the largest and finest collections of Old Master Drawings in Britain, containing nearly 5,000 examples which he carefully mounted, annotated and arranged. It contained works from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries by Flemish, Dutch, British and above all, Italian artists, including exceptional sheets by Raphael, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and the Carracci. The collection was dispersed amongst numerous collectors, including the Duke of Devonshire, Thomas Hudson and John Guise. Drawings from Richardson, Snr.'s collection are identifiable from his distinctive collector's mark comprised of his initials, sometimes surrounded by a palette with brushes.

The relationship between Richardson, Snr. and his son is especially interesting in the context of this portrait. This sitter bears close resemblance to a lead on vellum drawing identified as Jonathan Richardson, Jnr., now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (fig. 1). The two figures share the same stance, their heads directed to the right and their eyes focused towards the viewer. The arrangement of the hair in the drawing is remarkably close to the hair of the sitter in the present work. The double-buttoned collar of the shirt and the cut of the jacket are also extremely similar. The facial expression and attributes, such as his chin and full lips, bear close resemblance.

Richardson, Snr. is known to have executed a large number of portraits in a variety of media, of his immediate family, and in particular many portraits of his son, recording him from his youth to middle age. It seems highly probable that the present work can be included within that group.

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